MUNSTER | More than 75 people along Calumet Avenue held signs Monday advocating for changes in how hospitals treat women in labor and delivery.
The group was part of Improving Birth, a national organization, which promoted the National Rally for Change on Labor Day to educate women about labor and delivery options and to spotlight high cesarean section rates in U.S. hospitals.
The Munster rally outside The Community Hospital was one of more than 120 in major U.S. cities and regions, said Amy Bauer, a Cedar Lake resident and local representative of the group.
Another group rallied Monday outside the American Medical Association offices in downtown Chicago.
“We are on a mission to promote evidence-based (maternity) care in the United States by educating moms, and to send the clear message to doctors and hospitals that we can, and should, do better,” Bauer said.
She said Improving Birth chose to rally outside Community Hospital because the hospital ranks eighth in Indiana with a 42.9 percent C-section rate, according to The Unnecesarean website, www.theunnecesarean.com.
In 2010, the Munster hospital had 2,212 births with 948 by C-section.
“We don’t want to vilify Community Hospital," Bauer said. "We were hoping they would have a dialogue with us. I made repeated phone calls, but my calls were never returned.”
The research and recommendations include those made by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Bauer said.
“In the larger majority of hospitals, they say they provide evidence-based care, but they aren’t following even ACOG’s clinical guidelines,” she said.
That’s why C-section rates have increased nationally from 5.5 percent of all births in 1970 to between 32 and 35 percent today, Bauer said.
Not using evidence-based maternity care starts low-risk labors on “a slippery slope to unnecessary caesarian sections,” she said. “The U.S. out-spends every other country for maternity care, but we are ranked No. 49 for maternal mortality of all nations.”
Many of the maternal deaths are linked to C-sections, including infections and reactions to general anesthetic, Bauer said.
Improving Birth advocates such procedures as “watchful waiting” until 41 to 42 weeks of gestation rather than elective inducing of labor with no medical indication; vaginal birth after cesarean, or VBAC, instead of automatic elective repeat C-section; intermittent monitoring with a handheld doppler as opposed to continuous fetal monitoring; freedom to move during labor and birth instead of bed rest or restricted movement; and eating and drinking fluids while in labor as opposed to being given nothing by mouth and only routine IV fluids during labor.
Continuous fetal monitoring, for example, is performed “with the monitor strapped to the mother lying in bed,” she said.
“Moving around helps progress labor, and if a woman doesn’t eat or drink anything during the most strenuous physical activity she will ever do, she is not going to perform as well,” Bauer said.
She is a doula who helps women in labor at Franciscan St. Anthony Hospital in Crown Point and Porter Regional Hospital.
A doula refers to a trained professional who provides continuous nonmedical support for the mother and father before, during and just after birth, she said.
“We help the mother understand what’s happening, help her advocate for herself, make her comfortable and support her so she has a positive and empowered birth experience,” Bauer said.
“This is just the beginning,” she said of the advocacy movement.